Biden and Ryan face off in sole VP debate of 2012 election

On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden and vice presidential hopeful Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) went toe-to-toe in the only vice presidential debate of the 2012 election, moderated by ABC’s Martha Raddatz. This debate was the first televised opportunity for voters to hear from the vice presidential candidates side-by-side.

This debate was less formal than the Oct. 3 presidential debate, after which polling showed the gap between the two candidates narrowing. Among registered voters, Gallup polls currently show President Barack Obama and former Mass. Governor Mitt Romney at 48 and 46 percent, respectively.

Biden and Ryan sparred over a range of economic and social issues, including the foreign policy implications of the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Libya in September and the threat of a nuclear Iran. Biden stood by Obama’s domestic and foreign policy decisions, while Ryan worked to outline Romney’s platform and to provide comparison. When Biden commented on Romney’s now infamous “47 percent” remarks, Ryan countered by defending Romney’s character.

“This is a man who gave 30 percent of his income to charity, more than the two of us combined,” Ryan said. “He cares about 100 percent of Americans in this country. And I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.”

The majority of the debate was focused on economic issues, but near the end of the debate, Raddatz questioned both candidates about the issue of abortion. According to Ryan, though he “respect[s] people who don’t agree with [him],” a Romney administration would be opposed to abortion except in cases of incest, rape and risk to the life of the mother. Biden contended that despite his Catholic faith, he “[does] not believe that we have a right to tell women that they can’t control their body.”

Raddatz received mixed reviews for her performance. Some, like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, praised her for her willingness to follow up with the candidates, while many conservatives were unhappy with what they perceived to be preferential treatment toward Biden.

Students of the College held two main gatherings to view the vice presidential debate. The Williams College Democrats held a viewing party in Bronfman Auditorium, while the Garfield Republican Society held a viewing party in Dodd Living Room.

“I thought Vice President Biden did very well in reminding the voters of President Obama’s accomplishments and of the Republican Party’s policies since 2000,” said Brian McGrail ’14, president of the Williams College Democrats.

Garfield Republican Society Co-president Andrew Quinn ’13 felt that “both candidates accomplished what they had to,” but  “the fact that nobody’s questioning whether Ryan could handle the job – despite his youth and novelty to the national stage – itself represents a major victory for the surging Romney campaign.”

Though the vice presidential debate is over, presidential candidates faced off in their second debate of the election cycle last night. Obama and Romney will again debate on Oct. 22.